Ministry Lessons from the First College Football Playoff Series

Well, the first college football championship is decided, and while our Florida (and/or Georgia or Alabama) teams didn’t make it all the way, many of us still enjoyed the process. To give you a glimpse into our weekly staff meeting, I thought I would share the following notes from conversation this week. The question of the day was: “What lessons did we learn from the College Football Playoffs that impact our leadership, service or ministry here at Fruit Cove?” Here’s a bullet list summary of our discussion.

  • You cannot go by the polls. There is a reason they play the games. Some of the ministries or events we think might work better than others, do not. But, we play and we learn.
  • The shining star may not be. Sometimes, the trophy, position player just doesn’t live up to his pre-game publicity. In practically every game, there is a surprise star. When Samuel was looking for Israel’s King, the Bible says “…the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.'” 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)
  •  The line of scrimmage is the point of battle. What we do in staff meeting, in worship, or even in Sunday School is not where the battle is won. All those things are important, but the real battle is when we take the hope of Christ into the streets and into the lives of people around us.
  •  At the end of the day, there will be disappointment. In football, there is a winner and a loser. In life, circumstances don’t always go as we expect. But, we take refuge that there will be another chance. One of my favorite passages on this topic is 2 Corinthians 4:7-10: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” You could say we’re all cracked pots leaking the light of Jesus wherever we go.
  •  Not everyone gets a trophy. Well, at least not here. (Sorry, kids.) But, there will come a day: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)
  •  A football stadium is one of the only places outside of church where people sing together. There’s probably a deep lesson there, but I’ll wait for a new worship pastor to help with that one.
  • Some mistakes are larger than others.  As the Ohio State football team entered the stadium, the team ran over a cheerleader AND a flag bearer tripped. As a result, the flags spelled “OOHI” as they ran down the sidelines. Yes, it was funny, and some thought it was a bad omen, but, as the final score showed, it did not matter at all. And they got it fixed. That’s the important part.
  • You have to suit up: training and preparation give way to the game. The Christian life is more than simply showing up repeatedly at church. We all have opportunities to suit up and engage the culture around us with the Gospel truth of Christ.
  •  Half of the folks are against you. That just goes with the territory when you are trying to be in the world and not of the world. And, remember, they may not be against you, rather, against your coach. And, there is a promise for that: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12 (ESV)
  • Speaking of coaches, he is often considered the hero or goat. And he did not even play the game.
  • Confidence plays a factor. It was not uncommon to recognize that some coaches paced the sidelines with confidence and others seemed to wander in confusion. Unfortunately, the pace of the game – apart from halftime and brief timeouts – doesn’t afford much time to regain composure when things do not go as planned. Yet, you cannot help but wonder how much the confidence of a coach/leader affects the attitude and performance of a player/follower.
  •  Size matters. There is a competitive advantage to being bigger/faster/stronger than your opponent. We are blessed at Fruit Cove to have assets to invest in ministry. However, we have to remember that our opponent is not other ministries, rather, he is a spiritual enemy. As the saying goes, “you are never taller than when you are on your knees.”
  • Everyone is now #1. As I finish this post, Ohio State’s glowing in the limelight of the national championship is already fading. Attention is now focused on the Super Bowl. And every true college football fan is thinking “just wait until next year!” Isn’t it great that we have regular opportunities to start over, put past failures behind us and pursue new victories.
  • Key absences affect the outcome. A player may miss only one play due to injury or equipment malfunctions. That absence, however, often has an impact far greater than that next play. It is crucial that every player be engaged and executing on every play if we are to be our best.
  • Oregon fans were humble in victory (and defeat – we think). When Oregon beat FSU in Pasadena, FSU fans were encouraged by the humility and empathy of Oregon fans. Humility is often forged by failure, and we are well served to remember that in our victories.
  • Winning begets winning. It seems we are now on the threshold of a “new football dynasty.” One can only hope that the previous point will be well taken by the victors.
  • Execution trumps preparation. Finally, as one general mused, “a battle plan rarely survives the first shot of the battle.” The ability to adapt a game plan as necessary and execute it well on a continual basis is the key to success. Perhaps that’s why our spiritual journey as described as one of daily surrender and obedience.

So, there you have it. Postgame analysis by our staff. ESPN is not calling, but God is. He is calling our church to play our game of equipping, engaging and embracing our world with passion and excellence.

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